Facing angry neighbors in Globeville, Denver is looking at other new locations for the tiny-home village

But 4400 N. Pearl St. is still not off the table.
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4400 N. Pearl St. in Globeville, where the Beloved Community tiny home village could be relocated, Feb. 15, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The city is reconsidering sites other than Globeville for a tiny home village that needs to move soon.

Evan Dreyer, Mayor Michael Hancock's deputy chief of staff, also said Saturday that a city-owned site at 4400 N. Pearl St. in Globeville was still a possibility. He added it would take time for both the search for a new site and the search for a welcome in Globeville, where residents have expressed strong opposition to the village and the process by which their neighborhood was identified as a potential host.

The city was seeking to extend a permit to allow the village to stay longer at a site near the 38th and Blake light-rail station where it was erected more than a year ago, Dreyer said.

The Urban Land Conservancy, which owns the site near 38th and Blake, has agreed to let the village stay until the end of April, Dreyer said. The conservancy has plans for affordable housing on the site and had initially given the village until March 1 to find a new home. The March 1 deadline was extended after Globeville residents at community meetings strongly objected to hosting the 11 tiny houses that offer people who have experienced homelessness roofs, support and a sense of community as they try to find permanent housing.

Dreyer said he expected to hear by the end of the week whether the city permit, set to expire March 14, could be extended.

"We're trying to get more time so that we can have a slower, more intentional discussion," he said.

Beloved Community Village had planned to move from the site near 38th and Blake to a plot offered at Taxi. But in November, Denver's public works department said the Taxi site was inappropriate due to flood concerns.

Since the city offered 4400 North Pearl in late January, three community meetings have been held at which residents, often angrily, objected to hosting the village. Dreyer said sites in public and private hands that were considered when 4400 North Pearl was chosen would be looked at again, as would new sites.

The most recent Globeville community meeting on Saturday opened with an acknowledgment from Dreyer that the process has been rushed and tense.

"This is a difficult conversation to be having," he said. "We apologize for that."

Opponents have expressed fear that village residents would be drug addicts, alcoholics or sex offenders. Colorado Village Collaborative, the nonprofit that sponsors the village, said it has tried to keep barriers to living in the village low, but could set up a screening process as part of a good neighbor agreement with Globeville residents. At Saturday's meeting, Tanya Salih of the Colorado Village Collaborative leadership team said five former village residents are now in permanent housing. She added that thanks in part to finding shelter, the 12 in the tiny homes now are all working, in school or on disability.

"These are people who are actually working to improve their lives," she said.

Beloved Community Village at 38th and Blake. The architecture of the new plan differed from the original village. (Courtesy of Denver Community Planning and Development)

Salih said she understood the Globeville conversation has not been just about homelessness.

"A lot of what I'm hearing isn't even about the tiny homes. It's about a long history."

Opponents also have said that Globeville has been historically neglected and now faces the possibility of gentrification, creating conditions and uncertainty that leave it ill-equipped to host what some see as a social experiment.

"We cannot take it on right now," said Gayle LeRoux, who came to the latest meeting on Saturday with her sons and grandchildren.

LeRoux pointed to a granddaughter, saying she had grown up amid industrial areas and interstates 70 and 25, and now was being offered a view of a "homeless shelter."

"I'm sorry. Where's her view of flowers?" LeRoux said.

Among a few voices raised in support of welcoming the village was that of Janice Ediger. She said in an interview before the meeting started that she regularly cycles past the village near 38th and Blake on the way to work as a database administrator for Volunteers of America.

She said she had learned about the village through her church and saw it as a step toward solving homelessness.

"I think small solutions are often the best," Ediger said.

She was mostly silent during the meeting. At one point she objected that a neighbor did not speak for her when he said the gathering should be about why the village was not wanted.

John Zapien, a longtime Globeville resident and activist, said he would like to see the village come to his neighborhood. He also wanted his neighbors to use the opportunity of coming together and having the city's attention to push for improvements for the area. Zapien was concerned, though, that the mood was unproductive, which he saw in a larger context.

"Look at the country today," he said. "It's so full of hate and insecurity and animosity."

Denver City Council must approve the proposal to lease the city-owned plot at 4400 North Pearl to Colorado Village Collaborative for about $10 a year. The council's Finance and Governance Committee has given preliminary approval. A full council vote initially set for Feb. 19 has been indefinitely postponed.

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